What’s this all about?
When working in a specific trade, whether it be the fireplace trade, high end sports cars or exotic meats, those within the trade will generally know more about the day to day changes within the industry than the media or average person. So when Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, announced his plans to clamp down on solid fuel appliances as part of his emission changes for London, it’s understandable that those in the industry were shocked to say the least.
As a showroom we speak with customers everyday to find out their needs and to advise on what the best solution is to their ideas and plans. One of the main questions that comes up, since Sadiq Khan revealed his plans for ‘Zero-Emission Zones’, is “Am I allowed a solid fuel appliance or open fire?”. The short answer? Yes.
Part of the confusion comes from the Mayor of London, due to his misunderstanding of the trade and its current regulations. The other side comes from the reporting of the issue, which is again due to misunderstanding.
So what has actually happened? Sadiq Khan wrote to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove to ask for greater powers that would allow him to introduce “zero-emission zones” in London, where burning wood and coal would be completely prohibited. So far that is all that has happened.
So why all the confusion?
The main confusion comes from the reporting and overstating of the changes that have been proposed. The changes that are being discussed are not only specific to very particular parts of London but also don’t account for the current regulations within the industry. The changes being discussed are specifically referring to issues that arise from using open solid fuel fires, not stoves, and are also specifically referring to parts of London, not other parts of the country.
There are a few vital pieces of information that can clear up the confusion surrounding the question “can I own a solid fuel appliance, now and in the future?”.
What’s really going on?
2025 is the earliest that Sadiq Khan’s plans for ‘Zero-Emission Zones’ could come into effect in certain parts of London. This means that his plans for zones, in London, that ban solid fuel completely are unlikely to be implemented before this time. Sadiq Khan also doesn’t actually have these powers yet so the changes are more than likely a long way off. There is even a possibility, due to several flaws in the Mayor’s approach to tackling air pollution, that even if the powers he has requested are given, the currently discussed plans may alter.
A press release from Sadiq Khan on the subject reads,
“The Mayor believes that more should be done to empower consumers to make the right choice, including better information at the point of sale and mandatory labelling of products that are legal to use in smoke control areas.”
This has actually already been discussed and is being implemented right now. For more information on the changes that help consumers make more informed choices on appliances, feel free to visit our Ecodesign Ready blog post.
Another major part of the confusion is the lumping in of stoves with open solid fuel fires. Modern wood-burning stoves are extremely environmentally friendly, due to clever techniques that allow the stoves to cut emissions. One of these techniques involves injecting pre-heated air into the stove to encourage the use of unburnt flammable gases, this reduces the emission of unburnt hydrocarbons.
One major issue for London’s pollution problem is the widespread use of open solid fuel fires in London. Wood-burning stoves are much more environmentally friendly than open solid fuel fires, with wood-burners losing 20% – 30% of flammable gases up the chimney as opposed to 70% – 80% with an open fire. This misunderstanding of the problem is even more apparent when taking into account the existence of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) approved stoves, which are designed to be used in smoke-control areas as they are incredibly efficient, producing emissions at very low rates.
The final point to make is that there is currently legislation in place to curb pollution around the UK. The Clean Air Act already legislates for smoke control areas in London and other parts of the UK. Homeowners in smoke control areas aren’t allowed to burn wood and solid fuel unless they do so on an appliance exempted by DEFRA or they use a fuel that is exempted by DEFRA.
The main issue with the current legislation is the enforcement of it. Local authorities could and really should be doing more to act on the current breaches of this legislation. It seems unlikely that heavier restrictions or changes to the current rules will have any impact on the enforcement of them, so why not incentivise local authorities to act instead of changing the rules that aren’t being enforced? likely a question that will be discussed as these talks continue.
The main thing to remember…
Unless you live in parts of London with air-pollution issues and are burning non-DEFRA approved fuels on an open basket fire, you have little to worry about. Even if you are doing this you still won’t have too much to worry about for several years but you should probably think about moving to a DEFRA approved stove.
For more information please visit our other blog posts or come into our showroom for advice.